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NEEMO 6 Commander
IMAGE: NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington
NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington, left, and Mission Specialist Tara Ruttley participate in a training session underwater.
*NEEMO 6 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: John Herrington

NEEMO 6 Journals

NEEMO 6, John Herrington
Day 4, Thursday, July 15, 2004

Even down here, I am tied to my computer. I'm using a small handheld device to capture my daily routine as well as my schedule and e-mail. When I get a chance, I synchronize to the main laptop and download my current information. We rely on the laptop and its connection to the Web to retrieve our schedule and any messages from mission control. That's exactly how we do it on board the International Space Station. The tools we use down here are more recent versions, but they serve the same purpose. We are getting the chance to put some of the new software through its paces and making comments back to the engineers on its usefulness. My personal digital assistant decided to take a hike this evening and left me high and dry without a computer. After trying to do a soft reboot with no joy, out comes the battery and back in it goes. Presto! Back up and running for the time being. Back to my journal...

Today we finished the water lab project. A mad scramble at the end to get it completed. The parts can go together a thousand different ways, but only one way is right. Rather than walking around the structure, we can swim over the top, through, and around. Sure beats having to stand in one place. Can you imagine working on your house the same way? Building a structure in neutral buoyancy is quite a challenge. When I have the chance to talk to people about the International Space Station, I try and paint a picture of what it is like to work in microgravity and build something as incredible as the International Space Station. What we have done in orbit over the past 16 assembly flights, is proof, without a doubt, that we are capable of building structures in the harshest environment known to humans. And we have done it without ever touching our feet to the ground! Think of how much easier that task will be when we one day do it on the Moon or on Mars.

Nick and Tara spent the afternoon tagging the northeast excursion line. They hustled out about 1,000-feet-worth of tagging before returning to the habitat. Right about the time they came back aboard, we were fortunate to have a televised conversation with the crew aboard the International Space Station. Mike Fincke and Gennady Padalka joined us via a video teleconference for about 15 minutes. What a fantastic opportunity for us, and it was great to hear Mike and Gennady's voices. Mike commanded the second NEEMO mission, so he is very familiar with the habitat and all of the tasks that we are trying to accomplish down here. We treated them to a video tour of the habitat and some shots out the window at the fish congregating outside. Imagine how it must be to fly over the oceans of the world every 90 minutes and still talk with your friends beneath the sea. Pretty neat stuff that we get to do.

Our work here has been difficult, but worth the effort. The environment is very unforgiving and you have to be careful that you don't make a mistake. You keep constant track of your air supply and you make sure that you can make it to one of the way-stations at the end of the excursion lines for a refill, if necessary. The difficulty about living down here for so long is that we do not have the option to go to the surface if we run out of air. You would think that would be the safest place. But for a diver who has spent more than a few hours at this depth, their bloodstream becomes saturated with nitrogen. By breathing compressed air at this depth for an extended period of time, you risk getting small nitrogen bubbles in your bloodstream if you swim to the surface. Look in a bottle of soda sometime before you open the lid. Notice any bubbles before you pop the top? Once you open the bottle, you equalize the pressure, actually decreasing the pressure inside the liquid, and look at what happens. More bubbles than you know what to do with. Imagine those same bubbles floating around your veins. The right bubble in the right place could block the blood flow to a vital organ. Not something I would want to happen to me. So, if I run out of air (I won't let that happen) I'll grab my diving buddy and borrow their air and make my way back to the habitat. That's the safe place down here. Not the surface. So you may be asking yourself, how can you come back to the surface later, once the mission is complete? Check back in a few days and I will let you know.

Remember the big toothy barracuda? He's still out there. Craig Cooper, one of our habitat technicians has a name for him: BOB, Big Old Barracuda...

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/19/2004
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